I suspect that many people, both quilters & non-quilters, have happened upon a well-loved, home-y -- maybe a little homely -- quilt or top at an antique shop, thrift store, garage sale & been moved by its sweet nature & good price to buy it. Someone didn't love it, but something about it speaks to us so much so that we do & want give it a Forever Home. I've had the very good fortune to have inherited quite a few quilts & tops, but still, I've brought home quite a few more.
My most recent addition I got at this year's Quilt Festival -- a mid-20th century string top. The strings are stitched to cloth foundation squares. Many of the foundations are coarse white cotton -- probably sacking of some sort. But there are also a few prints & some pink rayon squares (smart, I thought, the rayon gives a base for the string sewing without adding much bulk or stiffness). I had thought it was all machine made, but closer inspection showed there are quite a lot of hand-sewn squares, maybe more than machine-sewn ones. And the hand-stitches are nice & small, suggesting a skilled needle-person (probably a woman, but you never know).
And the fabrics! WOW! Everything is here! There are solids, florals, printed & woven plaids, stripes wide & narrow; coarse sacking, fine sheeting, seersucker, pique, twill & one that might be silk. In the prints we see flowers, fruit, birds, teddy bears, Mother Goose characters, cowboys, palm fronds, dots, buttons, fish, houses, Mickey Mouse & friends, a parade, a girl at a soda fountain & deep sea divers! There are more than one color way of at least two prints. My guess is that most of the fabrics are from the late 1940s to early 1950s. But there are some muted prints that make me wonder if they are from the 1920s & a bold pique that could be from the 1960s. I really wish it could tell me where & how its maker got so many fabrics!
Making this top into a quilt will hide its inner story, but I suppose by documenting it here, it will live on. Quilt historians say that a quilt is as old as the youngest fabric in it, so if I do finish this top, I will bring it in the early 21st century. The backing I assembled is two fabrics -- one I found in my parents' house, a butterfly stripe from the early 1960s, some stripes cut away to embellish play clothes made for me by my Mom. The other is a big hunk I got at a Big Box store. I think I want to hand quilt it, big stitch next to the string seams -- so it will be a long-term project. But no hurry! And I really want to spend some time with these fabrics.